What is success? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, success is “a : degree or measure of succeeding b : favorable or desired outcome.”
Everyone wants to achieve something, be it to be fitter, healthier, smarter or whatever it is that we are working towards. The only way in which we know if we are getting any better at achieving our goals, is by measuring our progress against where we started from. It is the same for your fitness transformation journey. It is critical that you take your benchmark measurements before you start and then measure your progress at regular intervals. It is also important that your tools and techniques for measurement stay consistent, so that you get an accurate measurement of your progress.
There are a few things to consider in measuring your fitness progress:
1. Set a benchmark
Before you start your fitness journey, take all your measurements and record them. Do this without negative self talk, just try to be objective. This is your starting point and while you may not like what you see at the moment, you will be grateful that you will be able to see how far you have progressed in the future, because you recorded your benchmark now.
2. Use the right tools
The important tools you will need are a basic scale, a measuring tape and a bodyfat caliper. Most of these can be purchased from your pharmacy or sport equipment shop. You may have noticed that your weight can vary if you weigh on different scales. The key is to consistently use the same scale in the same place to weigh yourself. Note your weight.
3. Use consistent measurement technique
This is what I call “the good stuff where the magic happens”. With the emergence of more and more online transformation coaching services these days and the availability of internet resources, fitness clients are often expected to measure themselves. It is only on rare occasions that a physical training or fitness coach is available in person to assist. The measurements can be scary if you have never done these before, but don’t worry – I will show you how.
First, a few important tips:
- Measure each measurement in the same place every time. If you move the tape or caliper slightly up or down, you will not get consistent measurements.
- Pull the measuring tape tight when measuring girths, but not so tight that it makes a fold into your skin.
- Squeeze the caliper on the skin fold to take the measurement. It does pinch but you will know when the pinch is too severe.
- It could help to measure in front of a mirror, or ask a family member or friend to help. Some of the measurements are difficult to do alone.
- Measure on the right hand side of your body (except where you specifically have to measure left and right).
- All measurements are to be done on relaxed muscles – do not flex the muscles while measuring!
Now for the good stuff. The following is a chart of female anatomy I found online, and which I marked up to show the skin fold and girth measurement sites. (Male progress measurements work exactly the same way).
A. Chest skin fold
Grab the skin fold just below your shoulder and above your armpit in the site as indicated on the diagram above. Put the caliper on the skin fold and note the measurement.
B. Subscapular skin fold
If you can not easily see the shoulder blade, bend your arm behind your back. Measure about 2 cm down and diagonally towards your side from the sharp point of your shoulder blade. Grab the skin fold diagonally with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.
C. Triceps skin fold
Find the middle point between your shoulder and your elbow at the back of your arm. Grab the skin fold and test that you have not also grabbed muscle by bending the arm forwards and then letting it hang back down in a natural, relaxed position. Now measure the skin fold with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.
D. Abdominal skin fold
Measure about 2 cm to the right from your belly button. Grab the skin fold horisontally. Measure with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.
E. Suprailiac skinfold
To measure the suprailiac skin fold, locate the top of your right hip bone. Now measure about 2 cm down and to the left. Grab a diagonal skin fold, measure with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.
F. Thigh skin fold
Relax your right leg completely by putting all your weight on the left leg. Find the middle point between the thigh/hip joint and your knee. Grab a vertical skin fold. Measure with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.
G. Calf skin fold
This measurement can be done seated. relax your calf muscle completely. On the inside of the calf, find the middle point between the knee and the ankle. Grab a vertical skin fold. Measure with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.
Congratulations! You now know how to measure your skin folds! It may take a bit of practice but it will become easier, I promise.
Simply measure around the neck, using the measuring tape. Try to make sure the tape is straight. Note the measurement.
J. Shoulder girth
You will need help with this measurement. Measure around the shoulders, making sure the tape is straight. Note the measurement.
K. Chest girth
Measure across the nipples and around the back, making sure the tape is straight. Note the measurement.
L. Waist girth
Measure where your waist is, usually around 2 cm above the belly button but can vary from person to person. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.
M. Hip girth
Measure in line with the widest part of your hip bones. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. (Normally, this will align with your belly fold). Note the measurement.
N. Bum girth
In many people hip girth does not cross the largest part of the gluteus maximus (your bum). Measure over the widest part of your bum. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.
O. Bicep girth
Remember no flexing! Relax the arm and measure over the “belly” of your bicep. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.
P. Forearm girth
Measure across the widest part of your forearm. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.
R. Thigh girth
Measure over the middle of your thigh, between the hip joint and the knee. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.
S. Calf girth
Measure over the middle of your calf, between the knee and the ankle. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.
4. Progress Photos
Every week, take progress photos in the same bikini or sport top and shorts. You want the abdominal area to be exposed for the photos, but remember you may want to use the photos in the future to show your progress made – so smile and keep it decent!
5. Consistent Measurement Intervals
It is important the you measure your progress weekly, at the same time, using the same tools. I like to measure on Friday mornings before breakfast, but you can pick a day which suits you. Just keep it consistent. If you move the day, then you will have decreased or increased your measurement period and the results could be affected. If you measure at different times in the day, you may also get inconsistent results, as our bodies can retain water and food later in the day, which will make for different measurements than first thing in the morning. This is why I recommend you always measure first thing in the morning.
NOTE: please do not obsess about your measurements! Do not measure more than once a week. Weekly progress measurements over time are sufficient. Daily measurements will drive you insane. (Seriously). Our bodies fluctuate constantly and progress takes time to see. It is not instantaneous!
This is the last (and my least favourite) part. There is no point in measuring every week, however, if you do not keep a record of your measurements. This is why it is important to make this part fun and stay disciplined with it. Personally, I like to keep it all in a diary, hand-written old school style, so that I can also note other things of interest. I note when I am stressed, tired, or ill or perhaps injured. These things can affect my progress. I note when things are not going so well with my nutrition. I also note if things are going really well, if I have had an amazing workout or feel energetic and fantastic. All of this helps me tremendously in figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t.
So now you should be fully able to record your own progress, but I am only an e-mail away if you would like to ask some questions! Contact Us
Have a super day!